Descriptive research

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A lot of knowledge is needed for a good design; one that is functional, affordable, with architectonic interest etc. The same applies to a wealth of other activities within the architectural discipline; as there are policy development, spatial planning, formulating programmes of requirement, building and maintenance. Knowledge may contribute to well-considered and well-founded decisions. A methodological way to collect knowledge is the precise description of reality. The subject of description can relate to facts and wishes, to people and material objects, to plans and realised buildings. Examples are charting the housing preferences of potential inhabitants of VINEX-locationsa , a careful description of a building,b or plan documentations.c
A lot of insight may also be derived from detailed description of processes; as there are the thinking process of a designer or the decision making process concerning large projects in infrastructure. Two questions are of prime importance: ‘What is going on?’ and ‘How is it going?’d The results may be presented as texts, drawings, tables, graphs, statistical notions (mean, spread), maps like the one of a city or a function chart, web-sites and databases. The description may be focused on individual variables and on relations between variables. Suppose, that local authorities want to know the opinion of the community on different designs resulting from a prize contest. Then it could be interesting to find out whether the preferences are differing per age category, or that ‘laymen’ and professionals are differing in preference.
In the present contribution we are describing firstly some characteristics of descriptive research. Next, we present examples of descriptive research and show how results can contribute to development of the architectural discipline. We conclude with recommendations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWays to study and research urban, architectural and technical design
EditorsT.M. de Jong, D.J.M. van der Voordt
Place of PublicationDelft
PublisherDUP Science
ISBN (Print)90-407-2332-X
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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